Making college attainable for your child

Opinion

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By China Hill

Columnist

Most parents want their children to attend college. They tell them the sky's the limit and envision them walking a college campus, eager to soak up the knowledge required to be a doctor, judge or politician. But how many of those dreams will actually come to pass?

Wanting to go to college and actually getting there require separate efforts. The first only requires wishful thinking and the latter requires desire and access. Detailed below are the ways to not only motivate your child to go to college but also the opportunities needed for college enrollment.

College tours

Children receive different messages about college life. Either they hear stories of wild parties and pizza dinners or all-night study sessions and 20-page papers. Students rarely get the full picture of what college is all about. However, children tend to believe what they see, and in order to achieve a goal, they must see the goal.

Expose your children to as many campuses as possible by taking them on college tours. While on campus, your child will get the opportunity to see what students look like when they are hanging out in the student center or studying at the library. Instead of just showing up and checking out the campus, arrange a formal tour so you and your child can also learn about the college, visit residence halls, and ask questions. You can arrange college tours with college admissions representatives at any college. Start with colleges nearby, like DePaul and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). Then check into the ones further out like Northwestern in Evanston or Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The tours are free and aren't difficult to arrange - a phone call or filling out an information request form on the college's admissions website.

College colleagues

Many students are interested in attending the college a family member attended. If your child has a sibling, cousin, uncle, or parent who is a college graduate, he or she may express interest in those institutions.

On the other hand, if your child does not know a college graduate, now is the time to get him or her connected with someone. Knowing and speaking with a college graduate - especially one who shares the same race and gender - helps affirm the belief that your child can also attend and graduate from college. To connect with a college grad, check out mentor programs, inquire at your church, or ask around at work or in your neighborhood. Ideally, you want someone with whom your child has good rapport. Invite that grad to dinner and allow him or her to share his or her college experience. You can also use that same graduate to help your child complete college applications and apply for scholarships when the time comes.

Rigorous academics

According to College Board, your child's performance in challenging classes is one of the most important factors in determining college acceptance. Challenging classes are those with Honors, AP (advanced placement) and IB (international baccalaureate) attached to them. Getting As and Bs in undemanding classes is not as relevant as getting As and Bs in classes like Honors English, AP U.S. history, and IB physics. Encourage your children to take classes that have higher academic standards.

Although it may reduce your child's social time in high school, taking these classes will pay off in his or her senior year when most schools are looking for students who have shown they can handle advanced and college-level work. Taking challenging courses will also help prepare your child for standardized college admissions tests like the ACT.

If advanced courses are not offered at your child's school, have your child take college-level courses at one of the City Colleges of Chicago during their junior and senior years. Students may take one class per semester once they are deemed eligible by their performance on the college placement exam and their high school transcript.

To find out more about how to enroll your child in a college-level class, see City Colleges' dual enrollment website at www.ccc.edu/programs/pages/dual-enrollment.aspx.

Getting your child into a great college takes more than just wishful thinking. Make college attainable for your child by providing him or her with the resources and skills needed to make college more than just a dream for your child - and to see that dream come true.

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